Luigi Cherubini @ RISM

Martina Falletta

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This year marks the 250th birthday of Luigi Cherubini (14 September 1760, Florence – 15 March 1842, Paris). Luigi Cherubini was admired by his contemporaries, but it is rare nowadays to find his works on concert programmes or among the repertoires of the world’s opera houses. Cherubini dominated Parisian musical life for half a century; he was a successful operatic composer and for many years director of the Paris Conservatory. His significance as a composer rests principally on his achievement in the fields of opera and sacred music.

Cherubini’s musical legacy contained many works in the form of autographs, manuscript copies or prints. It was an unusually complete portfolio which, at the instigation of Cherubini’s widow, found its way to the Royal Library of Berlin, the present-day State Library of Berlin (D-B), in 1878. As is well-known, the holdings of the library were transferred to various places for safekeeping during the Second World War. The sources connected with Cherubini, especially those works composed before 1794, went to the Biblioteka Jagiellońska (PL-Kj) in Krakow, where they are now once again available for researchers to study.

Where the additional sources are preserved can be found, among other places, in the various RISM publications. Series A/I “Individual Prints before 1800” records 497Luigi Cherubini documents, and there are 27 entries in Series B/II “Recueil imprimés du XVIIIe siècle” and approximately 1,000 in the online catalogue. The Cherubini source documents recorded in the online catalogue are clearly summarised with various indices in the attached pdf catalogue (22 MB).

This documentation is only a sample because, as is generally known, the RISM project is itself a work in progress. For example, neither the extensive holdings of the French National Library (F-Pn), nor those of the Krakow Biblioteka Jagiellońska mentioned above nor the autograph collection in the State Library of Berlin have so far been recorded in the online catalogue. On the other hand, the catalogue contains a lot of documentation that has not attracted the attention of Cherubini scholars so far.

Research on the life and work of Cherubini has once again come to the forefront somewhat in recent years. This has led to the appearance of various academic publications (for example on his sacred music and the Paris operas) and, starting in 2009, a scholarly critical edition of the works of Cherubini under the editorial direction of Prof. Dr Helen Geyer (Weimar-Jena) is being published.

The symposium “Luigi Cherubini – vielzitiert, bewundert, unbekannt” (Luigi Cherubini – widely quoted, admired, unknown), to be held at the musicology institute of the Franz Liszt Music University and the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena on 25-27 November 2010, promises to reveal new aspects.

Another thing much to be desired is a complete catalogue of works. So far only catalogues of the various genres (motets, instrumental music) have appeared. The extensive RISM database can serve as a foundation for such a project.

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Category: Musical anniversaries

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